This election day, November 4, 2008 will be a very historical one. Many of us, long active in Civil Rights Activism, have thought we would never live to see this day. My thoughts will be on those I knew who are no longer with us. How I would have liked to celebrate with them what seems to be a victory for Obama.
My first thoughts will be on my father. He was a Brown-skinned Puerto Rican from Fajardo with a bilingual Rap which served him well as an export/import salesman in the Fifties. In the late 30’s/early 40’s he went to City college for 2 years. This was at a time when Black and Puerto Rican students daily encountered open Racism at CUNY. He then later fought in WWII where although winning numerous medals he faced even more powerful discrimination. This later contributed to a life long battle with manic depressive psychosis.
If he were alive today he would have been proud to cast a vote for an African American presidential candidate. My mother, a light skinned Puerto Rican woman from Aibonito, was ostracized from her family for marrying a BrownSkinned Puerto Rican. Both. her and Don Moncho, would have gotten up early to vote for their man-Obama.
My thoughts will go to the early Sixties when I lived in East Elmhurst Queens then a majority Afro American community. In the early Sixties we were bussed from PS127 (E Elmhurst) to JHS141(Steinway Junior High School). For what seemed to be at least 30 days we faced white ethnic mobs that called insults to us. threw garbage at us and often threated us. We were protected by police-both entering and leaving school.
The same hate that I see at some of McCain rallies I saw when i was 13 years old entering my first year of junior high school.
I will be thinking about Malcom X. As a young teenager, while living in E. Elmhurst, I lived on the same block as MalcomX (97th Street between 23rd & 24th Avenue). My family and I were out on the streets the night that MalcomX house was bombed.
Malcom would have had a great deal of criticism for Obama-but the “late” Malcom would have understood the historical moment.
I will think about my 3 years at Harvard Law School(1971-1974) where never a Black or Brown face become part of Law Review. Where subtle forms of racism still penetrated the Halls of Harvard. I will think about the anger, loneliness, fear, sadness, the few good times and how I might share some of these experiences in common with Obama.
My thoughts will be on Evelina Antonetty, one of the mothers of the Puerto Rican struggle and one of our must significant historical figures. She would have organized a breakfast on election day. I still remember when I helped coordinate part of the Jesse Jackson primary campaign against Walter Mondale in 1984. All the Puerto Rican elected officials were supporting Mondale. When I approach Evelina, before I could say a word she read my mind and joined the campaign. We later beat Mondale in that congressional district.
Evelina understood and taught that Afro American could not advance without Latinos and Latinos could not advance without Afro Americans.
The next person I will be reflecting on will be Sy Posner former Asemblymember and a man who served as one of Martin Luther Kings public relations team for the 1964 March on Washington. Sy, who served as our public relations man during the Hostos Struggle, would have been proud to deliver his district to Obama.
My thoughts will then go to deceased Afro American activist John Davis, former editor of the Amsterdan News and a good friend. John who had a reputation for tardiness would have voted early and then sat back and seen Harlem light up on election day. It will be a celebration which perhaps will surpass the night described by Richard Wright when Joe Louis won the Heavy Weight Championship.
My thoughts will be on deceased great journalist Jack Newfield. As a young man Newfield joined the struggle down south during the Sixties. Newfield-who always inspired by multiracial coalitions would have been an avid supporter of Obama. He would have excused Obama for not taking public fundings and instead focusing on Obama ability to get small donors.
So on election day I will wake up early, put on my Roberto Clemente All Star Jersey and walk to my polling site to vote for a Black man who has a hell of a chance of being the First Afro American President in the history of the United States of America.
I’ll vote for Obama-with the understanding that although I have differences with him over Afghanistan and other controversies, history demands that I vote for Barack Obama.
And somewhere….someplace—my father and mother, Evelina Antonetty, John Davis, Sy Posner, Jack Newfield, Malcom X and Roberto Clemente will be very proud of me.